THE FAMILY TREE
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Emergency medical technicians Tony and Jenna Altomare have been married for eight years and are expecting their first child.
Couple share in saving lives
The Altomares, both paramedics, have been married eight years
IN A JOB where sickness, injury and death are daily occurrences, it's nice to come home to someone who understands your day at the "office."
Paramedics Tony and Jenna Altomare have that bond.
"You have someone to come home to and vent," said Jenna. At the end of each day, they hold their own debriefing session where they discuss what happened and sometimes what they could have done differently.
The two were hired by the city's Emergency Medical Services in 1999, but wed in 1998 while going through the grueling paramedics program at Kapiolani Community College.
The Altomares say the stress of the intense training and of getting married during that trying time prepared them for the stress they face daily as paramedics.
"The hardest is when it's a little kid and you see them die or drown," Jenna said.
While on the job, Jenna, who is expecting their first child, often thinks of her nephews and her unborn baby.
Tony finds it's tougher dealing with the grieving families and helping them through it. "It's hard not getting involved," he said. "We try to disconnect, but it's hard. Every once in a while, one will get you."
Both work in busy units, which respond to about 550 to 600 calls a month -- Tony at Metro 1 on Young Street and Jenna at Charlie 1 at St. Francis Medical Center.
Their units average eight to 12 calls a shift.
THEY ATTRIBUTE their marital success to each other -- Jenna's easygoing personality, and Tony's humor and as well as his easygoing personality and protective nature.
The department has two other couples, but there have "been more than a few divorces," Tony said. "In this field, you tend to have a lot of strong personalities."
Tony said he was attracted to Jenna the first time they met. He was an emergency medical technician and brought a patient to St. Francis Medical Center where she was a pharmacy technician. She began asking him questions about becoming an EMT.
Six months later, they met again at Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi, where she had no clue who he was.
"I said, 'How are you?' She said, 'I don't know you,'" Tony recalled.
But they met again months later, she remembered, and that time they clicked. They married in March 1998.
The two say they try not to work together, but not because of their personalities.
Rather, Tony said, "We're bad luck. Bad things happen.
"In this job we're very superstitious. When you work with certain people, you have a certain karma."
One time they worked together, a driver tried to cut them off and they almost crashed the ambulance.
THE JOB, however, helps them in their personal lives.
Jenna said she's more careful when it comes to baby-sitting her nephews, and she knows that will carry through when she has her own baby.
As for their unborn child, the Alewa Heights couple says they won't necessarily push him or her into following in their footsteps.
"I'd be proud if my kid wanted to do this job," Tony said.
Jenna added, "We're both pretty happy with what we do."
They both have family members in the health care field.
Tony's father is a physician's assistant. "I think it influenced me -- him being in the health care field," he said.
Jenna's father is the administrator for St. Francis Medical Center. Her uncle is a pediatrician and her sister is a pharmacist.